The Incarnation, Crucifixion, and Resurrection (Introduction to Western Civilization 5.4)

In the next chapter, we will discuss the beginning of the spread of Christianity. Almost immediately after the death of Jesus, the apostles and other followers of Jesus spread out around the Mediterranean and beyond to teach people about him and his message. Before we study that history, however, we will first discuss what the message was that they spread out to teach.

The earliest Christians believed that Jesus was the messiah who had come to bring salvation to all people. Salvation, they said, is rescue from sin and its consequences. According to the early Christians, sin is more than just doing bad things, though doing bad things are certainly a part of sin. They said that sin is being something other than what God created human beings to be. The early Christians believed that God had made human beings to be his children. They should, then, love God as their father and love all other human beings as their brothers and sisters. And, of course, they should behave in a way that shows they love God and love all people.

People had sinned, however, by not loving God and not loving other people. Instead of worshiping God, people started to worship other gods. Instead of treating other people well and taking care of them, people had been greedy and selfish. They mistreated other people, hurt them, and stole from them. By doing these things, they had become something different from what God made them to be. They were not behaving like God’s children, but like his enemies.

The result of sin, said the early Christians, is that human beings became separated from God. Sin acted like a wall that made it impossible for God and humans to have the close relationship they are supposed to have. They believed that Jesus was the Son of God. Just as the son of a human being is a human being, the son of God is also God. By becoming a human being, God had broken down the wall that separated humans from God. The early Christians called this event, in which God became a human being, the Incarnation.

By the Incarnation, God defeated sin. He still had to destroy the consequence of sin, however. The early Christians said the consequence of sin was death. Because God is the source of all life, human beings died because they were separated from God. This, they said, is why it was necessary for Jesus to die and resurrect.

Jesus was able to die just like any other human being, but because he was God he was able to come back from the dead. By doing this, he defeated death. The Incarnation and the resurrection of Jesus were seen by the early Christians as the victory of God over sin and its consequences. He had finally brought salvation. Each human being, they said, can have salvation by believing in Jesus and behaving in the way he told people to behave. The early Christians called their message about Jesus the “Gospel,” a Greek word which means “good news.”


Review Questions

  1. According to the early Christians, what is the consequence of sin?
  1. According to the early Christians, how did Jesus defeat sin?
  1. According to the early Christians, how did Jesus defeat the consequence of sin?

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